“Never be limited by other people’s limited imaginations.”
– Dr. Mae C. Jemison (NASA astronaut, engineer, physician)

By Lee Roper-Batker, President and CEO, WFMN

As the first African American woman astronaut to travel in space (1992), Dr. Mae C. Jemison’s words remind us that every barrier we break begins with imagination and determination.

Imagine if… all girls throughout Minnesota saw pathways to aerospace because Dr. Jemison dared to dream and act. Dr. Jemison models the mindset we must adopt to soar above barriers to reach and achieve what we imagine.

Valerie Jarrett (attorney, former senior advisor to President Barack Obama), famously says, “You have to see it to be it.” Through our Young Women’s Initiative of Minnesota, young women across the state are helping us “see it.” A key recommendation in the initiative’s Blueprint for Action, the powerful statewide action plan created by young women, is to promote messages that ensure they can experience the world without limitations. Together, we’ll bring that world within reach.

This fall, the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota celebrates a tremendous 35-year milestone. Our enduring Foundation is made possible through the dreams and collective investments of trailblazing partners, like you. We’ve never stopped imagining a Minnesota where all women and girls dream big, achieve, and lead without limits.

As champions for equity, your partnership has invested in community-driven solutions to move gender and racial equity ever closer. In 2017, your investment in our work rocketed innovation and impact toward this shared vision.

35 YEARS & BEYOND: Leading Impact to #ChangeCulture

When the Foundation launched in 1983, we became the very first statewide women’s foundation in America. Our founders imagined a Minnesota where all women and girls had access to equal opportunity, experienced the world as a place of safety, and are valued as solution-builders and leaders within their communities.

They knew that women and girls weren’t broken, but some of our systems were. With imagination and conviction, they charted the course for the future and focused on shifting attitudes, behaviors, institutions, and policies that invited opportunity, safety, and leadership. Our goal to #ChangeCulture was set in motion.

We have witnessed how imagination seeds inspiration, inspiration attracts innovation, innovation inspires collective investments, and our collective investments catalyze enormous change.

For 35 years, we’ve followed this North Star and proved that, together, we can #ChangeCulture to ensure a world of equal opportunity where women, girls, and all people hold the power to create and lead safe, prosperous lives.

We are at a pivotal time in our culture. In the past year, the #MeToo movement to end harassment and violence against women reached a tipping point. Reports of sexual harassment, misconduct, and assault shook Hollywood, Silicon Valley and tech companies, news organizations, schools, sports teams, Congress, and our own state Legislature.

I am filled with hope that we, as individuals and as a culture, are finally ready to listen and act to ensure a Minnesota that is safe for all. We know that behavior and culture can change. In Minnesota, we’ve seen it with seat belts, smoking cessation, and sex trafficking.

In 2018, we’ll harness this momentum to #ChangeCulture to ensure economic opportunity, safety, and leadership for all women and girls in our state. Through social media, we’ll create avenues of engagement for you to share what actions Minnesotans are taking to #ChangeCulture at home, work, and in their communities.

At our annual Economic Opportunity Summit on April 13, we welcomed grantees, donors, and key partners to #ChangeCulture to create a Minnesota where women, girls, and all people thrive. We shared inspirational stories of individuals, organizations, and systems affecting culture change right now. And we explored opportunities for how everyone can use their influence to #ChangeCulture and transform our state.

Each one of us has tremendous power to #ChangeCulture through action. As a statewide community foundation, here is a sample of key actions we’ll invest in to #ChangeCulture in 2018:

  • Scale Impact to Ensure Safety Statewide – Look deeper into our role as a statewide community foundation to imagine, inspire, innovate, and invest to ensure safety for all.
  • Impact Investments – Award first Young Women’s Initiative of Minnesota grants totaling nearly
    $500,000 this year. Key innovations: Microgrants to fund the leadership and innovative ideas of 20 young women to drive the initiative’s Blueprint for Action recommendations; field building grants to support organizations serving girls and young women (ages 12-24); and funding statewide to shift harmful narratives to ensure all young women can experience the world without limitations.
  • Research – Release new Status of Women & Girls in Minnesota research to inform our statewide grantmaking, policy agenda, and strategic communications, and serve as a resource for policymakers, educators, and the public.
  • National Reach – Engage public U.S. women’s foundations to amplify collective investments to ensure: economic security for low-income women and their families (Prosperity Together collaborative); access to create unrestricted pathways to economic security and prosperity for low-income women, women of color, and women in Greater Minnesota (Partnership for Women’s Prosperity); and equity in outcomes for young women of color and other young women who experience the greatest disparities (National Philanthropic Collaborative of Young Women’s Initiatives).

Your leadership, partnership, and vision for gender and racial equity – the unlimited imagination you hold – will #ChangeCulture and ensure all Minnesotans thrive. Thank you for making this powerful impact possible!

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